Monday, August 29, 2016

And Then It Rained - C. W. Lovatt

Comment on the blog or on our Facebook page to be in with a chance to win a copy of this truly memorable and beautiful book.

The draw for the prize will take place on 6th September.



Reading is one of the great joys of my life. Deprived of a book I will read the sauce label and the microwave instructions, the small print on an insurance document - anything so that I can feast my eyes on the printed word. Reading so much, one could be forgiven in thinking that I have a whole arsenal of unforgettable books in my head, books that will stay with me forever, but no. I had four, and now I have five. ‘And Then It Rained’ will never leave me, tugging at heartstrings, making me smile, making me want to cry, to laugh, to live.

The book is from C.W. Lovatt, the best-selling author of the Charlie Smithers series and the much acclaimed Josiah Stubb. It is an eclectic collection of award-winning short stories, a genre in which Lovatt excels. (Saying that, I have not yet found a genre in which this incredible author does not excel.)

I first came across C.W. Lovatt’s work by accident, finding a compelling ‘flash fiction’ short called ‘Baggage’ in an unrelated Google search – unrelated unless, of course, ‘Baggage Allowance Finnair’ is considered related! The story is entirely in dialogue, no ‘he said’, ‘she said’ and it works so well. I read it and re read it and eventually printed it out, framed it and hung it (levelly) on the studio wall.  It is still one of my favourite pieces of writing and I was delighted to find it included in ‘And Then It Rained’.



'Baggage' on my studio wall.
The most incredible thing about this collection of stories is the ‘voice’.  Each story has such a different subject matter, such different characters and is written in an entirely different voice,  not in the way of some lesser author, struggling to find their personal  ‘voice’ and testing out various approaches, but with the confidence of a writer of extreme merit who knows his place in this world. I use the word confidence, but never does Lovatt’s writing become arrogant and somewhere, deep underneath the compelling penmanship, coming out through some of his characters, we spy an engaging humility and deep sense of humanity.
The nearest simile I can use to describe the power behind the ‘voices’ is to liken it to method acting -
“a technique of acting in which an actor aspires to complete emotional identification with a part”. The emotions and personae are so accurately portrayed it would seem that the author has
taken on the emotion of that particular character for the duration of the story.

The timing is perfect, whether used for comedic effect or for a dramatic twist, the laughter or the gasp of horror from the reader is guaranteed. Dialogue flows easily and naturally, as can be seen in this excerpt from the first story in the book, Sean’s Lament, a delightfully funny story about the gullible Sean who can never quite believe that the love of his life could be cheating on him:


"Then she snuggled up to me, her breast – done with flirting – had decided to get down to business and flattened itself against my chest. I almost heard the ‘prong’ as a tent pole sprang up halfway down the covers. Her voice was warm and moist in my ear when she asked, “But you want to know the best part?”




“What?” I shivered, fumbling for the light switch.



Her hand drifted beneath the covers until it found me and took hold.  “Boy-oh-boy,” she giggled, low and husky, “you is hung! "




I found myself enchanted by the miniature perfection of each and every story, marveling in them in the same way that I stare in rapt enchantment at the miniature portraits of Hans Holbein the younger.
Margaret Roper by Hans Holbein the Younger

I cannot read the stories fast. Each word needs treasuring. Every word has so much weight, import and value that every word needs savouring and valuing. Throughout the whole of the book, throughout everything that I have read of this major wordsmith, each word is there because it has to be there, in perfect partnership with the words before it and the words after it, balanced, weighed, carefully positioned and counter balanced.

Here is an example of that total perfection, balance and symmetry: "There she lingered to my heart’s content, every moment even more rapturous than the unparalleled one from before, until at last – while the world around me shattered into erupting volcanoes, and torrents of tsunamis washing away entire civilizations – she had supped her fill."

Lovatt has a remarkable way of making the reader be able to picture perfectly the physical appearance of the main character, but without lengthy descriptive passages.

How? This is a total mystery to me. I have read and reread several of the stories searching with a fine tooth comb for the answer, but to no avail.

I have to conclude that it is either magic or another mark of the total genius of the man.

One example of the author  summing up the whole of a space with a few choice words is found in the story that lends its title to the book, ‘And Then It Rained’, a heart wrenching short that had me damp eyed: "He entered into a clean but aging kitchen.  An ancient refrigerator sagged against one wall, emitting a long-suffering groan. A well-used stove crouched patiently next to it, surrounded by plain wooden cabinets, with a counter of chipped and stained Formica. A stainless steel sink completed the triangle: it was a habit that his eye could never quite relinquish after forty years in the trades – and he noted that the sink was too far left, slightly off-centre to the window overlooking the driveway. Mrs. Woodson ushered him into the living room...”

The final story, ‘A Word’, is the most beautiful thing I have ever read and it was with a real sense of sadness that I closed the book at the end. It will take a while before I can find something to enjoy as thoroughly as I have enjoyed this.

The description on Amazon says: ‘’Rain, that natural wonder, so natural, in fact that often it comes and goes scarcely noticed. However, metaphorical or otherwise, there are times when rain brings with it great change, causing the breath-taking beauty of rainbows or the cataclysmic destruction of floods, with equal indifference. This collection - an eclectic mix of humour, drama, and fantasy - is about those uncertain times. Dark clouds are forming, so you had better be prepared for the coming storm.’’

What other people thought:
Incredibly good writing
by Bookworm
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase “Lately I’ve been reading a number of short story collections and anthologies. I find it a great way to discover new authors and new genres.
In ‘And then it Rained’ I’ve discovered an author who has the enviable knack of evoking laughter and tears within the same pages.
Witty and with perfect comedic timing, the first story ‘Sean’s lament’ follows the antics of a young man who, in the name of love, endures all manner of alarming escapades. Visual and very funny, the tight writing keeps you on your toes until the final punch-line.
In complete contrast, my favourite of the collection ‘Tin Whistle’ is a Gothic
ghost story with lyrical prose. Quite beautiful in its simplicity, the tale of much loved and much missed Emily is incredibly poignant and emotional.
There are many more, equally diverse in style. What they all share is incredibly good writing.


”The Winnipeg Review  - “C.W. Lovatt possesses incredible talent, and it is my unreserved opinion that Josiah Stubb: The Siege of Louisbourg deserves a prominent place on any history buff’s bookshelf.”  


C. W. Lovatt lives in Canada where it's quite cold. If you wish to find out a little more about him and his life, read the hilarious non-fiction story in ‘And Then It Rained’ entitled ‘The Thing About Pantyhose’. This venture into autobiographical non-fiction is a departure from the norm for Mr Lovatt, but it provides a wonderful snapshot of the twelve year old boy.

© August 2016 ~ Reviewed by Diana Milne, letterpress seller extraordinaire and author of a totally unnoticed ‘wish list’ on Amazon.


 

Monday, August 22, 2016

600ppm: A life changing novel by Clarke W Owens, reviewed by Diana Milne

The author of this book has kindly offered an e-copy (Kindle or epub) of 600rpm to one lucky reader. To be in with a chance to win, just leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.
The draw will be announced about 29th August 2016.



Arguably the most stunning, far reaching and influential book I have ever read, 600ppm is told in a simple, friendly way but has a hard hitting punch of a message that has thumped me where it hurts.

The protagonist (from Ancient Greek πρωταγωνιστής (protagonistes), meaning "player of the first part, chief actor") is twenty six year old Jeff Claymarker and he tells the story in an intimate manner that made me feel that he was talking with me over coffee. I immediately warmed to him and felt I could trust him, a trust not misplaced, as I discovered when events unfolded.

The author Clarke W. Owens lives in Ohio, USA and writes fiction, poetry and prose. His work has appeared in a number of literary journals.

600rpm is an unusual choice of book for me to read as it probably would go under the genre of Science Fiction, something that I generally avoid, but Owens presents this story, which is set in the future as something that will happen - and indeed, it, or a variation of it, is very likely.

It is 2051. Global warming has flooded eastern U.S. coastal cities. The West is a waterless desert. Refugees migrate northward. Food and water are tightly rationed amid endless war. When Jeff Claymarker's friend is wrongly convicted of murder, the only clue to the truth comes from a stash of flash drives belonging to Jeff's late uncle, a Washington climate scientist. As Jeff unravels the crime, he stumbles across a state secret that threatens to topple the government.
Twenty-five years previously, the U.S. Congress, at the behest of corporate oligarchs, deliberately stifled scientific information warning of the catastrophes of global warming which have now come to pass: flooded southern and eastern U.S. coastal cities, a desertified West, northward-migrating refugees, rationed food and water, endless war with the Caliphate. Naive Jeff Claymarker, watches extinct species on Wild Beast World and listens to right wing broadcasts from the charismatic loud mouthed Wesley Wright, whose arguments seems compelling to many people until forced to face the fact that the truth was not what the populace were being led to believe.

Despite all the trials and tribulations that happen to Jeff and people he knows, Jeff remains positive and does his best to ensure a better future for the little daughter he unexpectedly finds himself with custody of.

What other people say:

This is an important book, and it has helped me to shift my own thinking about Climate Change. Set in Ohio in 2052 (sic), it paints a realistic future of what will happen if we ignore todays' climate trends: Wildfires have destroyed the west; the south is a desert wasteland, the east coast is disappearing as oceans advance, and refugees are streaming north. Thunderstorms darken the sky's of Ohio and torrential rain it the normal weather. And yes, life goes on...and a man is framed for murder. Placing a murder mystery in the middle of this grim future USA was a brilliant idea. And if hope lies anywhere, it is with decent people who are resilient. Please read this book, and share it with your friends! We need to talk about these things.
Although I have been an avid reader all my life, in recent years I have gravitated more towards non-fiction, with a concentration on history, politics and travel essays. Nevertheless, I recently finished a novel that made such an impression on me that I am compelled to write this review. The book is 600 ppm: A Novel of Climate Change by Clarke W. Owens.
It is obvious that the author is a big believer in global warming being caused by man’s negative impact on the world’s atmosphere. I do not necessarily agree entirely with this hypothesis. I believe that climate change is cyclical in nature and has existed for thousands of years. The author does, however make an excellent case for the exaggeration of normal climate change being caused by the human race’s thoughtless practices of conducting business without regard for anything other than the almighty dollar. By crafting a suspenseful, intriguing storyline, the author is able to “force feed” a skeptical reader an enormous amount of evidence regarding climate change that would otherwise be boring if presented in the form of a statistics report.
600 ppm is a thrilling “who done it” that also describes the effect of climate change on future generations. The reader is forced to imagine and consider the food shortages, water rationing and diminished sunlight hours resulting from climate change, regardless of what may be causing it. The future of mankind living with such extremes was ably described by the author thoroughly and convincingly with his story telling abilities.
This passage taken directly from the book seems to speak directly to me:

“...the truth is not what it appears in news sources. It’s hidden away. It flashes to the surface once in a while, like a fish rising to suck up a water fly. But then it descends again, down into the deep. And if someone wants it they have to look at yesterday’s stories...
The truth is not a thing for Everyman, Mr. Claymarker. Everyman doesn’t want to do any work to get it ...
I was the only one who cared about the truth coming out. That was important to realize because I knew ... I was Nobody. And that meant Nobody was interested in the truth.”

With echoes of Twain, Vonnegut, Dickens, and Salinger, Owens’ book has changed my view of global warming entirely. After many years of friendship with the late Dr Dick (Richard) Morgan of Nova Scotia, Climatologist and global warming skeptic, I have never read anything that has convincingly made me question my beliefs and reappraise scientific evidence, for and against before.

After reading this masterfully told story, my views have been altered radically.


About the author:
Clarke W. Owens' first serious publication was in 1977, when a poem won a contest prize. MA creative writing from UC Davis 1976, studied fiction with Diane Johnson (Le Divorce; screenplay for The Shining, etc.) and poetry with Pulitzer winners Karl Shapiro and Richard Eberhart.  Later, PhD, JD. Many publications in literary journals, member of Academy of American Poets, listed in Poets & Writers Directory. Short story, "Survivors" will appear soon in anthology of climate fiction by Sunbury Press. "600ppm" is first novel, second book. Two more novels in pipeline.

www.clarkewowens.com is his web site, which has buy links.


About the reviewer:
Diana Milne is an avid amateur historian and erstwhile author, better known as d.arcadian, letterpress seller extraordinaire.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Sharon reviews The Wolf Banner

Today sees the release of The Wolf Banner by Paula Lofting. The author has kindly donated 2 e-books as prizes in our giveaway and will also offer an ebook of Sons of the Wolf if the winners do not have a copy. To be in with the chance of winning this fabulous book, simply leave a comment below or on our Facebook Page. Good luck!





WAR AND BLOODFEUD
1056...England lurches towards war as the rebellious Lord Alfgar plots against the indolent King Edward. Sussex thegn, Wulfhere, must defy both his lord, Harold Godwinson, and his bitter enemy, Helghi, to protect his beloved daughter.
As the shadow of war stretches across the land, a more personal battle rages at home, and when it follows him into battle, he knows he must keep his wits about him more than ever, and COURAGE AND FEAR MUST BECOME HIS ARMOUR…  


The Wolf Banner is the second book in Paula Lofting's marvellous Sons of the Wolf series which tells the story of Saxon England in the years preceding the Norman Conquest. It follows the trials and tribulations of one family; Wulfhere, his wife and children. A thegn sworn to Harold Godwinson, Wulfhere has responsibilities to his king, his lord and his family, while trying to overcome his own fears, temptations and one big problem; his neighbour and sworn enemy, Helghi.
The Wolf Banner builds on the first book, to draw the reader further into Wulfhere's life, the highs and lows, into battles with swords and words. It is a fabulous adventure, full of family heartache, compromise and love, while never losing sight of the bigger picture; of England and the struggles of Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex, both against his enemies and his king.


Paula Lofting is a natural story-teller who has put her heart into her characters. They are all-too-real. Human. Wulfhere's family are as dysfunctional as the rest of us. With bullying twins, sibling rivalries - and friendships - and adults who aren't quite sure what to do for the best. Beset by insecurities, temptations, feelings of despair and a desire for revenge the family dynamic leaves the reader nodding in understanding and sympathy.
The characters are so full of life, it's almost as if they will jump out of the page at you at any moment. I'm sure every reader will have their favourite. Mine has to be Tovi; the middle child - just like me - eager to please and desperate to be a warrior like his father. His sister, Winflaed, comes a close second; another middle child who is eager to please, she has a spark of independence that makes you want to smile. And that rebellious streak of a tom-boy who knows she can do everything her brother can - and is going to prove it. I can only hope that these two wonderful characters will become the stars of later books.
But Wulfhere is more than his family. He is a thegn with duties to his lord - Harold Godwinson - and to his king, Edward the Confessor. He is the leader of a war-band who have to face down England's enemies from within and without. And the book seethes with the tension of brewing war, battles now and in the future - and a father whose two sons must stand in the shield wall for the first time.

The tension is palpable.


The Wolf Banner is the epitome of story-telling. Every now and then there is paragraph, where the descriptive prose is so clear, palpable, that it will send a shiver up your spine. Full of lively characters and plenty of action, the story is told in wonderful, colourful prose which sets the scene and dictates the atmosphere. It paints the picture of an everyday, dysfunctional family life that we can all relate to - even today, a thousand years later.
Ealdgytha kissed her daughter on both cheeks. Freyda hardly responded and not even a smile passed her lips. If she was hurt by her daughter's lack of emotion, Ealdgytha did not show it. She smiled, regardless, and kissed her new son-in-law. She bade them both farewell as they climbed onto the wagon that held their wedding gifts and Freyda's belongings.
"Remember what I told you, my girl; be good to your husband. Love him, and treat him well, even above yoursself," Ealdgytha whispered to her daughter as she stood beside the wagon.
"As well as you have treated my father, Mother?" Freyda replied with a glint of contempt. "I think I can manage better than that; much better."

The Wolf Banner achieves a wonderful balance between the political and domestic life of Wulfhere. It is a fascinating story of duty, family and history. Triumph and tragedy, love and betrayal live side-by-side.
The story moves at an incredible pace, with the worsening political situation of England woven into the story of a family tearing itself apart. And yet, the family must pull together to survive. I hesitate to call any book a 'tour de force' but The Wolf Banner is unique, it is an incredible story of one family's journey in pre-Conquest England. It draws you in, forces you to live through the experiences and dramas of the family; their loves, losses and even their arguments become a part of you as you read, almost one of your own family.
The storyline, descriptions, the dialogue and Wulfhere’s family combine to make this a novel to treasure.
Let's hope there is more to come.....

 About the author:

Paula Lofting was born in Middlesex and brought up in South Australlia. At the age of 16 she returned to the country of her birth where she always dreamed of writing a historical novel. Her dream was not realised until nearly thirty years later when she finally set about writing her first novel, Sons of the Wolf, which she first published in 2012. She has recently re-published it under a new publishing name of Longship and the sequel The Wolf Banner is available from 20th August 2016. Paula is also writing a series of blog posts to commemorate the 950th anniversary of 1066 this year, which can be found on her website, paulalofting.com.

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 Sharon Bennett Connolly has been a reviewer for The Review since 2015. Fascinated by history for over 30 years she has studied the subject both academically and  just for the joy of it - and has even worked as a tour guide at historical sites. She is now having great fun passing that love of the past to her 11-year-old son; visiting abbeys, hunting dragons in medieval castles and searching for fossils at the beach. Having received a blog, History . . . the Interesting Bits, as a present for Christmas 2014, she is now enjoying sharing her obsession of history with her readers and currently working on her first book Heroines of the Medieval World due for release in 2017.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

PAULA'S PEOPLE: AN INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR ANNA BELFRAGE

Anna Belfrage


Yesterday I had the privilege of sharing my thoughts on Anna’s latest book, and today I get to ask her some probing questions! I would just like to remind people that Anna is giving away a signed paperback of her latest book Days of Sun and Glory and you can enter by following this link to my review from yesterday!

1)Welcome back to the Review dearest Anna, how are you these days? It’s quite some time since you have visited us. Can you tell us a little about what you’ve been doing whilst you’ve been away?
Writing would be the very short answer. The somewhat longer answer involves a decision to fundamentally change my life and concentrate solely on writing – which is why I no longer work fulltime. There are days when this results in severe anxiety-attacks, mostly from a “who am I” perspective – after all, so much of our identity is linked to what we do, rather than who we are. 

2) Your new series The King’s Greatest Enemy has hit the ground and kept running and is doing really well, by all accounts. What inspired you to write about this particular era, and events in our history?
I’ve had a thing about Mortimer since my 6th grade teacher Mr Wilmshurst introduced us to him. He scoffed at the ridiculous notion of Edward II being murdered with a red hot poker, went all passionate about the general political instability of the time, and made us all understand that history is never truth, it is an interpretation based on perspective. My series is just that: an interpretation, written from the POV of a man who has Mortimer to thank for everything he has, and yet as we move along, Adam de Guirande’s loyalties to Mortimer will be sorely tested. 

3) I haven’t had the opportunity to read your Graham Saga as yet, though I am currently on the case, and I was wondering what your loyal readers might think about this new couple that have hit their kindles. Are Kit and Adam similar in any way to Alex and Matthew, or are they very different? And also is there any of you in any of them?
I’d say all my male protagonists share some common characteristics, integrity being one of them. And yes, they’re both tall and well-made, but their outlook on life has been coloured by the times they live in. Adam is in many ways very medieval, and as he has not had the benefit of an education – he struggles to read and write – his world view is defined by what he has seen and what he has been told by people he trusts such as Mortimer. He does, however, have a mind of his own, and yes, I like intelligent leads, so he is fully capable of amassing information and forming his own opinion. 
Matthew is by far the better educated, and although much of his reading has been restricted to religious matter such as Scripture and the Westminster Catechism, he also has a whimsical side, which is why he loves John Donne and enjoys Shakespeare. Where Adam has been forced to choose sides based on loyalties and what lord he serves, Matthew has been obliged to fight to defend his beliefs – and both of them have suffered major blows to their pride as a consequence of their convictions/loyalties.
Kit and Alex are in some ways very different. Kit is a product of her time, raised in a society where women per definition were subservient to men (which does not mean they were powerless or reduced to chattels. It just means that society considered man to be the self-evident master of his wife and household, at least officially). She is also several years younger than Adam which means she lacks in experience versus her husband. But she grows with the series, I think, developing from an insecure young girl to a woman who is willing to take substantial risks to keep her family and man safe. 
Alex is opinionated, loud, resourceful and rarely intimidated by anything. She is probably the protagonist with whom I have the most in common – not that I have any Karate skills, nor am I sure I’d be so good at adapting to her new life in the 17th century as time traveller Alex is – but she is, after all, a modern woman, which means she shares commonalities with me and my readers. 

4) Apart from your main protagonists, who would you say are your favourite supporting characters and why?
In which series? In The Graham Saga, it would be Mrs Parson, Magnus and Simon Melville. Why? Because Mrs Parson is possessed of a lot of dry wit and also is a pillar of strength for Alex when things go pear-shaped. Magnus because as Alex’s father, he is the father I would have wanted to have – all the way down to his skills in the kitchen. And Simon is Matthew’s best friend and direct opposite physically – round like an egg, he is – but bounces through life with such self-confidence it makes me smile.
In the King’s Greatest Enemy, my favourite supporting characters are Mabel, the old nurse who follows Kit through thick and thin, William, Adam’s priest brother, and Thomas of Brotherton, half-brother to Edward II whose role in the narrative expands as the series goes along. I’ve always felt Thomas has lived a most anonymous existence, outshone by his drop-dead brother, Edmund, Earl of Kent. Actually, I have one more favourite non-protagonist, and that is the future Edward III, but his role in the narrative is too central to call it supportive.

5) Your portrayal of Hugh Despenser has me cringing whenever he walks in on a scene. What did you find in your research about him that made you cast him as the ultimate villain?
I cast him as the ultimate villain because he and Mortimer detest each other. The representation of Despenser is therefore coloured by Mortimer’s opinion of the man, which means greed and thirst for power are seen as bad things in Despenser, not so much in Mortimer (at first). From what I’ve read, Despenser was not a likeable man to those whom he disliked – but he seems to have been a good husband and a faithful servant of the king, albeit that serving the king gave him a lot of advantages…
Despenser had a tendency to be high-handed, was now and then in flagrant breach of the law (like in the case of Llywelyn Bren, whom he executed, despite the man being sentenced to imprisonment), had no problems whatsoever cheating people out of what was theirs, and subjected the English to a veritable witch-hunt after Mortimer’s escape from the Tower, where it sufficed that a man had known Mortimer for him to risk being dragged before the Assizes there to be fined or even lose his life. 
Due to the enmity between Mortimer and Despenser, any Mortimer man had reason to quake when in the presence of Hugh Despenser – and vice-versa. For Adam de Guirande, initially Mortimer’s man through and through, Despenser was as much his enemy as he was Mortimer’s. Dear Hugh would have agreed wholeheartedly: any Mortimer man was best dead.  

6) And speaking of research, what did you turn up about this period of time that amazed you about the whole Edward/Despenser, Isabella/Mortimer thing?
One of the things I rather enjoyed was discovering just how luxurious life could be back then. Mortimer had sheets in red silk, he travelled with matching bedhangings and counterpanes, and he was very fond of butterflies, adorning not only his tapestries but also his tunics with various colourful butterflies. Maybe he was just making the point that some things are ephemeral… Also, I am rather intrigued by Mortimer’s close relationship with various men of the church – godly men considered Roger Mortimer their friend, which sort of indicates (IMO) that Mortimer must have had some moral fibre. How did he reconcile this with his relationship with Isabella? With how he treated his wife? Fascinating stuff! 

7) The character I feel most sympathy for is the young Prince. I love how you have portrayed him in your book, a victim who begins to see right through his mother and Mortimer. Is your portrayal a direct result of your research?
My portrayal is the result of an intimate knowledge of young boys on the cusp of manhood – I have three wonderful sons, all of whom have contributed something to the depiction of Edward. We have little knowledge of Edward as a child, but it does not require a major leap of imagination to understand he must have felt torn. First, his father humiliates his mother by reclaiming her dower land (effectively, Edward II thereby deprived Isabella of any independent income), then he exiles all of Isabella’s retainers – on the pretext of doubting their loyalties, what with England and France being at war. Of course the young prince must have felt for his mother. Then, Edward II sends Isabella abroad to negotiate a treaty with the French, sends over his son to conclude the treaty, and suddenly Prince Edward is an indirect hostage – Isabella had no intention of allowing her son to return home. Suddenly, the prince understands he is the primary weapon Isabella intends to wield when she invades England. Can’t have left him with a warm and fuzzy feeling vis-à-vis his mother, even less so as the letters he received from his father while in France indicate a growing tension between the king and his son, Edward II going so far as to accusing his heir of being a rebel. The prince was no rebel: he was a boy trapped in an escalating conflict. 
From what we know of Edward as a king, it seems reasonable to imbue this young prince with the same determination, honour and intelligence he displayed as an adult. I am very happy you liked my portrayal of him – he sort of grew into a central character as the story went along. 

8)I heard that you are returning Alex and Matthew to our readers, and I was wondering what has brought this on after 8 books about them. Were your readers urging you to, or have you just decided that the world hasn’t quite had enough of them yet?
It is a combination, I think. Alex has been rather persistent in reminding me that she still did not know what happened to her unknown granddaughter in London, and yes, several readers have expressed a wish for another book. 

9)When you are writing, how do you get into the ‘zone’, what helps you to get there?
A good cup of tea, some Bach, Beethoven or Silvio Rodriguez in the background, and off I go. 

10) I know that you are a prolific reader and you also read widely. Can you name some of your favourite authors and tell us briefly why you like them so much?
That would be a very, very long list, I am afraid, as I read on average 2 books a week and have done so since I was seven or so… But to give it a shot, I enjoy reading outside my genre, and am a big fan of Babara Nadel and her books set in Istanbul. I also enjoy Amanda Quick (historical romance) return over and over again to Tolkien, never let a year pass without re-reading Sharon K Penman’s Here be Dragons, love Edith Pargeter’s books about the brothers of Gwynedd, love Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Mario Vargas Llosa, enjoy whiling away an afternoon with Lee Child, would love to see Philip Roth win the Nobel Prize, and gladly spend some hours with Sylvia Day’s books about Gideon and Eva. 
What all of these writers have in common? They breathe life into their characters, causing them to step out of the pages to become real flesh-and-blood people, men and women I care about, cry for, root for. 

11) What book have you read this year that has really left an impression on you?
Difficult question: I think I have to say An Untamed State by Roxanne Gay. Unbearable to read at times, it depicts one woman’s voyage through hell and out of it – except that her experiences will leave her permanently changed.

12) And finally, when, just when is the next instalment coming out in The King’s Greatest Enemy?
Ah, I am aiming for April, or late March of next year!







Anna can be found on FacebookTwitter, Website, and on her Amazon Page

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

PAULA READS: DAYS OF SUN AND GLORY BY ANNA BELFRAGE




The author is generously giving away a signed copy of this exciting book. A SIGNED COPY!! To be in with a chance of winning just leave a comment on the blog below, or on our Facebook Page
The Winner shall be drawn on the 23rd of August



This beautifully written love-story-come-historical-intrigue was just the thing to keep me hooked. It has everything a book needs to keep me turning the pages, love, betrayal, conflict, and a fantastic leading lady and man. It is rare for me to give out such praise for a novel these days as it takes a lot to float my boat, but this book deserves the accolade of the most highest. Its absolutely awesome.


Lord Mortimer and Isabella
ride at the head of their contingent

In this second of Ms Belfrage's The King's Greatest Enemy, we see fictional characters, Adam and his lovely wife, Kit, struggle to keep themselves out of trouble as they mingle with dangerous courtiers at the palace of Edward II. Adam's former lord, Roger Mortimer, having escaped from custody, is somewhere abroad, working on his revenge strategy, and Adam is now sworn to serve the young Prince Edward. Kit has to serve the queen, but her traitor's blood soon becomes known to the king, and he banishes her from court, separating her from her beloved Adam, who is honour bound to stay and serve his young prince. This is how we start Days of Sun and Glory, and we are set from then, on a path in the game of thrones and murder and intrigue, as various players lust for power and revenge.

Kit is forced to say goodbye to her Adam

What I love most about this book is the manner in which the author develops her characters. In the first book, we see a beautiful Isabella whose air of mystery had me wondering if we were really seeing the 'true' Isabella. She is portrayed as both kind and helpful, and appears to be erring on the side of right, although she can be caustic at times, and very 'queenly' but we get the impression, she is going to help Adam and Kit because she is a 'nice' lady. In Days of Sun and Glory, we begin to see a different Isabella emerging and along with her, a new Mortimer, whose character is obviously affected by his time in that hell hole of a prison he was incarcerated within. Belfrage knows how to flesh out characters, presenting them in such a way, that we get to know them, learn about their foibles as if we are Kit and Adam ourselves. I love how she is able to keep us in the mindsets of the de Guirandes, offering the reader a truly powerful emotional experience, by showing us exactly what they feel, sense, hear and see of their world. 


Secondly, I love the relationship between the two main characters, Kit and Adam. I love the love story that stirs my very being when we read their scenes together. Whether they are arguing or making love, Ms Belfrage takes us into their world and we 'see' their scenes unfold as if we are them for those moments. Its rare that I wake up from a scene and am surprised that I have come back to reality. And its rare that I dream about a book that I am reading and that I am one of its characters, so immersed in the story was I. 
In the first book, I was not always fond of Kit. She could be very self-centred, often making it all about her, and Adam was sometimes so laid back to the point of being stupid. In this second book, I am in love with them both, although if I'm honest, I usually take Adam's side in an argument, telling Kit exactly what I think of her version of events.


Edward and Despenser

I have always had a soft spot for Edward II. Yes, he was a failure as a king,  but he was a man ahead of his time, out of his time zone, in a world where people were not openly deviant without it being at their peril, and especially if they were king. Edward, it seemed, disliked the art of kingship, and preferred to be out thatching roofs or making boats with the lower echelons of his subjects. However we do not see these characteristics in Ms. Belfrage's book, and as endearing as these qualities might be, they were not conducive in the conducting of the affairs of a kingdom. He loved other men and was extremely generous to those he favoured, so much so, to the exclusion of others he should have been kinder to. Ms Belfrage shows us the darker side of Edward, the one where he behaves like a petulant child who does not get their own way. The man who loves blindly to the exclusion of all common sense and allows men such as the Despensers to do harm to others, with Edward turning a blind eye to the evil short-comings of Hugh Despenser and his cronies. He allows Despenser to continue in his mission to destroy Adam and his family in his deadly game of cat and mouse, abusing poor Kit and Adam with blackmail and all sorts of torments. 


Lord Mortimer  


Ms Belfrage draws her characters very well, and her fictional protagonists mingle seamlessly with historical persons of the time. The author's ability to absorb her fiction into true events and politics of the time, hooks the reader in, thereby keeping you turning page after page as Kit and Adam show us their world through their eyes. This is very cleverly done, and I love how we are kept in the mindsets of these two characters, who are close enough to the events and the main players to have been affected by them. They don't always like what is happening, but their positions in life mean that they are powerless to prevent what is happening. 


This book is like a game of chess, and the board is setting in which they play, it is their world, their environments and each line of squares is a pathway. On one side we have the king, and his Despenser, aptly in the queen's position. On the other, we have Mortimer and Isabella, respectively in the same positions. Each player's actions have heavy consequences on those around them, including Kit and Adam, who play as pawns, and the young Prince Edward, in the knight's position, all of whom suffer the most. And there are other 'pieces' who also play their parts.


The young Prince Edward


The world in which we find ourselves is the 14thc, but the main focus is not on the buildings, the environment, the clothing, and the everyday things that might add to a backdrop. Ms Belfrage is a competent writer and does not need to flood the pages of her book with endless descriptive passages. Her world is there, within the narrative, slipped in with the prose, what they may be eating, wearing or doing is written into the sentences without hampering the flow of the story.

I have to say that I loved this book, and believe it to be a triumph even over the first in the series, In the Shadow of the Storm, which is a fabulous book also. I cannot recommend it any more highly and those who love Anna Belfrage's books will adore this! I am looking forward with baited breath to the next in the series! 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR




Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does not exist, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing. 
Anna has authored the acclaimed time-slip series The Graham Saga, winner of multiple awards, including the HNS Indie Award 2015. Her new series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, is set in the 1320s and features Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures during Roger Mortimer’s rise to power.

To buy a copy of Anna's book - here is the Universal link:  http://myBook.to/DOSG
Read more about Anna on her website: Website: http://www.annabelfrage.com
Follow her on Twitter @Anna_Blefrage
Check out her news on  Facebook on her Matthew&Alex page
and her Amazon Page  



 Paula Lofting is the author of Books 1 & 2 in the Sons of the Wolf series and is currently working on her 1066 Blog and new website.

She can be found on Twitter  and Facebook Page